New England Revolution: Jerry Bengtson
With the Revolution up a goal, and the Dynamo pressing for the equalizer, the Honduran forward witnessed what turned out to be the perfect opportunity to put his goal drought to bed.
As the match marched into stoppage time, A.J. Soares lofted a long ball ahead that Bengtson chased down. With Dynamo keeper Tally Hall well off his line, Bengtson dribbled around him and slotted his shot between the near post and A.J. Cochran to cap a 2-0 Revolution win.
“I knew that (Houston) was losing and they were pushing up their lines,” Bengston said through a translator. “When I looked, I knew that was the opportunity and I looked over the shoulder, just took the space and scored.”
Two summers ago, the Revolution signed Bengtson to a designated player deal in the hopes that his presence on the pitch would lead to points in the standings. Initially, there was no reason to believe otherwise. In his MLS debut, Bengtson came off the bench to score an 84th-minute goal en route a 2-0 victory for the hosts. At the time, it appeared that the club’s newest designated player would be worth every penny of the heady investment made by the front office.
But the sheen on Bengston’s signing dulled quickly. He scored only once more in the remaining 12 games of the 2012 season, and his second season in New England proved to be a disaster. In 16 games, he scored only once, and was little more than an afterthought during the Revolution’s first postseason run in four years.
Earlier this year, Bengtson did little to change the perception that he was a striker whose confidence at the club level was shot. Sure, he’d scored important goals for Honduras at the international level. But it just wasn’t happening for him when he donned a Revolution jersey.
That is, until Saturday arrived.
Although his late appearance may have raised a few eyebrows -- especially with a recently-dangerous Charlie Davies available -- Bengtson would reward the faith placed in him by the coaching staff.
“We were looking to expose them for pace a little bit,” Revolution assistant coach Tom Soehn said. “We knew that they were going to press, so there’s going to be opportunities in behind. He did a good job when he came in.”
Bengston’s 91st-minute goal may have put the match out of reach for the Dynamo. But for Bengtson, it was more than just an insurance goal in an early-season game.
“(The goal) gives me a lot of confidence -- for me, as well as the team,” Bengtson said. “Hopefully, it’s just the first one. Yes, lots of confidence. Hopefully I can do more for the club.”
The floodlights on the 2013 season may have been shut off weeks ago, but Revolution general manager Michael Burns will be the first to tell you that there is no offseason for him and the coaching staff.
Whether it’s making difficult roster decisions, scouting NCAA action, or drafting the preseason schedule, Burns and coach Jay Heaps already have an eye toward 2014. And it’s easy to see why.
For all the success the squad enjoyed en route to a surprising third-place finish, both men know there are plenty of pressing questions ahead of them this winter. Questions that will need to be addressed before the club returns to the training pitch in late-January.
But before the team kicks off preseason drills at the Dana Farber Fieldhouse, let’s take a look at the top five questions surrounding the local XI this offseason.
1. How will the Revolution fill the void left by Juan Agudelo’s departure? Now that the services of captain Jose Goncalves have been secured for 2014, the most pressing question is how to replicate what Agudelo brought to the table. Despite seeing action in only 14 games last season, his impact was impossible to ignore. The offensive production shot up nearly a full goal per game when he saw the field, and as a result, the Revolution attack was a force to be reckoned during the summer. Although players like Agudelo aren’t easy to come to by, the front office may want keep their eyes trained on talent available within MLS. It wouldn’t be the worst idea to look at players like Ryan Johnson (Portland) or even Eddie Johnson (Seattle) rather than looking abroad, where the Revolution have consistently struck out at the striker’s spot.
2. Will designated player Jerry Bengtson finally live up to the hype in 2014? Speaking of striking out up top, the latest swing and miss in that department has been the acquisition of Bengtson. Brought in during the 2012 summer transfer window, the Honduran striker has been a disappointment during his two seasons in Foxboro. In 29 games between the 2012 and 2013 season, Bengtson only found the back of the net three times, while squandering many more opportunities in the process. But it appears the front office still has faith in their pricey forward, as his option was picked up last week. Perhaps it was a move made with next summer’s World Cup -- and subsequent transfer window -- in mind. Perhaps indeed when taking Bengtson’s prolific form with the Honduran National Team. Or maybe the Revolution have seen enough from Bengtson to believe that 2014 could be a breakout year.
4. Is the 4-1-4-1 a temporary fix or a permanent solution? After injuries rendered high-priced holding midfielder Kalifa Cisse an unreliable option in the 6 spot, Heaps was forced to undertake some serious improvisation with his formation. Without Cisse, the Revolution were embarrassingly weak in the midfield. To address that weakness, Heaps decided to go with a five-man midfield, a risky move that cast rookie Scott Caldwell and winger Lee Nguyen into unfamiliar roles. The move worked for the most part, but as the season crawled into autumn, deficiencies were exposes. Caldwell’s propensity to push forward left acres of space behind him, while Nguyen’s struggles in the air allowed opponents to dominate the middle. It’s hard to believe that the front office won’t be looking for a strong and experienced holding midfielder during the offseason. But given what Caldwell, a gifted distributor, brought to the midfield, it’ll be interesting to see if Heaps sticks with the five-man midfield, or whether he has visions of a refurbished four-man unit.
5. Have we seen the last of Charlie Davies? In the club’s final official meeting with the media, Davies spoke with great certainty that he’d be back with the club next season. He told the press that his midseason acquisition was made with an eye toward the future, and that a full preseason with the squad would help him find the form he struggled to discover in the waning stages of the 2012 season. That may be true, but after the club announced on Friday that it had declined its option on Davies, a second season in Foxboro doesn’t seem as certain as Davies painted it earlier this month. However, the decision to decline an option doesn’t necessarily mean that a player won’t be re-signed under different terms (i.e. lower cost) later on. In light of that, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Davies back in camp come January, with the hopes that a full preseason will unlock the potential of a player who’s only two seasons removed from an 11-goal campaign with D.C. United.
First pick Andrew Farrell and offseason addition Jose Goncalves fit right in with returning defenders A.J. Soares and Kevin Alston, and helped keep Fire forwards Sherjill MacDonald, Maicon Santos and Chris Rolfe from finding the scoresheet.
“It was a hard fought battle,” Revolution head coach Jay Heaps told the media after the game. “I thought we did a lot of good things, with a couple of mistakes here and there that led to a lot of their chances. Overall it was pretty solid.”
Farrell wasted no time exhibiting the speed and savvy that convinced the club to trade up to select him first overall in January. In the early moments, he outpaced Dilly Duka, and even chased down a long wayward pass from Soares before it crossed the touchline.
Goncalves, an imposing and experienced center back from the Swiss League, lived up to his billing inside the back four. He made a number of quick recoveries and displayed his strength on key challenges inside the defending third.
“They were coming at us and we did a good job of keeping them at zero until halftime when we got the wind (at our backs) a little bit,” Revolution captain Clyde Simms told the media following the game. “Then we started to play in the second half and then we got the goal and towards the end they started pushing a lot of numbers. I’m really happy we kept them out of our goal.”
While the defense held up its end of the bargain, the central midfield pairing of Simms and Kalifa Cisse also stepped up to give the Revs their first win in the Windy City since a 2-1 victory July 8, 2006.
In fact, the use of two defensive midfielders served the Revs well in the middle of the park on Saturday. Cisse fortified the rear by outmuscling the Fire midfielders, and in the instances where they advanced into the area, Simms provided cover and plugged the passing lanes.
“It was something we sort of set up to do this game with our formation,” Simms said. “(Chicago) is very strong in midfield and we wanted to neutralize that and take advantage of that. I think we did a good job of that, especially in the second half.”
For Heaps, the waning moments of the match was when his club truly showed its mettle. With the Fire regularly crashing into the New England end, the Revs withstood the pressure thanks to tight marking and timely tackles.
“We were sharp defensively and thought we had a couple more chances, maybe after we scored the first one -- I thought we could have had another one,” Heaps said. “I liked the way we finished the game. The guys were fighting for every inch.”
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was a memorable first impression for the Revolution's newest Designated Player on Sunday, one that won't be soon forgotten by the Revolution faithful.
Twenty-four minutes after stepping onto the Gillette Stadium field for the first time, Jerry Bengtson bagged his first Revolution goal before a crowd of 14,374, who loudly voiced their approval of the recently acquired Honduran striker.
For Bengtson, there was no doubt that he could deliver the goods in his Revolution debut. No doubt whatsoever -- even if he was afforded only a half-hour to do so.
However, before Bengtson could make his mark on the match, there was one important thing Revolution head coach Jay Heaps wanted Bengtson to do: watch. Watch his teammates move the ball and play it forward.
While Heaps wanted Bengtson to observe his teammates' tendencies, he also wanted to handle Bengtson's introduction with care. No need to rush him into action with the ink yet to dry on his contract.
"You can't just expect a player to come in and start," Heaps said. "He's coming in, getting to know the team. But to throw him out there for more than (30 minutes) would've been unfair to him."
So at halftime, Heaps gave his new striker the heads up: Be ready to go in the second half.
With his squad up a goal in the 60th minute, Heaps summoned Bengtson from the bench. It was time to show the crowd what Bengtson could do.
Out on the field as the lone striker with Saer Sene going out wide, the Bengtson battled for 50-50 balls and stretched the defense with his speed and positioning.
"(This) was the kind of game where we wanted him to fight for headers," Heaps said. "He was all by himself on an island just to kind of open up the defense."
While Bengtson may have found himself isolated up top, it was evident he applied what he observed on the bench out on the pitch.
When Sene tucked inside, Bengtson went wide. And when Sene went out on the right, Bengtson cut inside, anxious to put one into the back of the net.
And that's exactly what he did in the 84th minute. With the Revolution pressing for an insurance goal, Sene played a give-and-go with Shalrie Joseph and barreled through Red Bulls defender Wilman Conde before Ryan Meara stopped his close-range shot. But Bengtson arrived late to shove the rebound into the back of the net.
"It was a beautiful play by my teammate," Bengtson said. "It was very unlucky that he took as a shot and the keeper made a save. But I was focused enough to lead it into the goal. I never lost focus on following the play."
It wasn't the prettiest or most technically sound strike. Some may call it the quintessential "garbage goal." But it's the kind of goal that Heaps expects his newest striker to score.
"I think you're going to see more goals like he scored where it's a poacher's goal," Heaps said. "He's offside on the first part of the buildup, but then he comes back onside and he fights off the goalkeeper and scores. Those are his kind of goals and we need someone who puts those away."
Meanwhile, Bengtson credited his teammates and coaches for helping him transition not only to a new squad, but a new country.
"All of my teammates and the coaching staff have always supported me and helping me out," Bengtson said. "But the more important thing is the fans. The fans have been key for me."
And the fans? If the applause and cheers following Bengtson's 84th minute goal were any indication, the fans are just as happy to have him here.
• With their sixth win of the season on Sunday, the Revolution surpassed their victory total from all of last season (5).
• The 2-0 win extended the Revolution's unbeaten streak to five (2-0-3).
• The Revolution have scored two goals in four of their past five games.
• The shutout was the Revolution's fourth of the season.
• Lee Nguyen's 24th-minute goal was his first since a 74th-minute strike against Vancouver on May 12.
• Blake Brettschneider led the Revolution with four shots on goal during Sunday's match.
• In his first start of the season, second-string goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth earned his first career MLS shutout.
• Shalrie Joseph, who was listed as "doubtful" with a knee injury on the team's injury report on Friday, came on as a 73rd-minute substitute for Benny Feilhaber.
• Saer Sene, who started on the right side of the midfield last week, returned to his familiar striker's spot up top to start the match.
• Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry was not available for selection on Sunday.
• After suffering a hamstring strain during the first half of the June 23 match at Toronto, right back Kevin Alston returned to action on Sunday and went the full 90.
• When Joseph came on in the 73rd minute, it marked the first time in Revolution history that two of its Designated Players were on the field at the same time.
• Revolution midfielder/forward Diego Fagundez, who scored the 94th-minute equalizer in last week's match against Seattle, came on as an 89th-minute substitute for Kelyn Rowe.